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Russian girl who drew anti-war picture leaves orphanage with mother


A view shows a juvenile social rehabilitation centre in the town of Yefremov in the Tula region, Russia, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

A Russian girl who was sent to an orphanage after drawing an anti-war picture, for which her father was convicted for discrediting the armed forces, has been collected by her mother who has not lived with the family for at least seven years.

Russia introduced severe punishments for discrediting the armed forces after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, laws that have snared dissidents, journalists, actors, musicians and even comedians.

Just hours before a court was due to hold a hearing over the parental rights of the girl’s father, Russia’s children’s rights commissioner said that she had spoken to the girl’s mother who had collected her from social care.

The girl’s father, Alexei Moskalyov, was convicted of discrediting the armed forces and given a two-year jail term, leaving his daughter Maria, or Masha in the diminutive, in the hands of the state as her mother, according to legal documents seen by Reuters, had lost all contact with her daughter.

Children’s Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova said she had spoken to the girl and to her mother, named Olga.

“Masha did not want to go to her mother at first, and her opinion is legally required to be taken into account. Now her position has changed – she told me this herself on the phone,” Lvova-Belova said.

“Olga has already taken Masha from the social rehabilitation center,” she said. “Let’s hope that everything will work out for mom and daughter.”

Lvova-Belova posted a picture of the girl and her mother sitting on a bed, looking into each other’s eyes. Both were smiling.

“I am glad about the beginning of the reunion of daughter and mother,” Lvova-Belova said.

It was not immediately clear why Maria’s mother had not lived with the family for so long. Official custody documents from earlier in the year showed her mother uses a different surname.

The problems for Moskalyov began after his daughter drew a picture in a school art class last year that featured Russian missiles flying towards Ukraine and the slogans “Glory to Ukraine” and “No to Putin, no to war”.

Secondary School Number 9 in Yefremov, 290 km south of Moscow, alerted the police who discussed the matter with both Moskalyov and his daughter, then 12.

More ominously, officers from the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the Soviet-era Committee for State Security (KGB), also spoke to both father and daughter, Moskalyov’s lawyer told Reuters.

Shortly afterwards, social services got involved and Moskalyov was accused of poor parenting and fined. He was accused of discrediting the Russian armed forces in social media posts. He said his account had been hacked.

On March 1, he was detained and the next day a court placed him under house arrest. Maria was taken away and put into a children’s home, despite a request from a detective that she be returned home.

Moskalyov went on the run and was arrested in Minsk. While on the run, he was sentenced in absentia to two years in a penal colony for discrediting the armed forces.

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